|Today, being our 10th anniversary we wanted to do something special.
We drove down to Hill City and took a ride on the 1880's Steam Railroad for a trip to Keystone. Altogether it was a 2 1/2 hour ride. John was just beaming as he loves trains and this one was even more special since we got to hear the conductor yell "All Aboard" and off we went. The clickety clacked down the rails with the steam blowing out from the engine, the whistle as we came to highway intersections and the neat swaying of the cars as we road down the rails.
The first steam engine in the Black Hills was brought across the prairie by bull team to the Homestake Mining Company at Lead in 1879. In 1881, the Home-stake Company created the first narrow-gauge railroad in the Black Hills to haul its cargo and the public from Lead to several mining camps. In 1885, the first standard-gauge railroad reached Buffalo Gap, Dakota Territory, and was extended on into Rapid City the next year.
The standard-gauge Burlington branch that came to host the 1880 Train's operations was built in several portions between Hill City and Keystone during the central Black Hills mining boom in the 1890s and the first month of 1900.
During the late 1940s, diesel engines became more common than steam. After years of declining use, William B. Heckman (a public relations man with railroad experience) decided to start a railroad where steam actually operated and was not just relegated to static display.
On the morning of August 18, 1957, the first official train operated on the Black Hills Central Railroad. Veteran Burlington engineer Earl Coupens piloted the Klondike Casey and its two open-air coaches away from the Burlington's vintage 1890 Hill City depot, up the four-percent grade of Tin Mill Hill and on to Oblivion (this really was the town's name). The route was nicknamed "the 1880 Train," as it was likened by Heckman to riding a train in the 1880s.
Since it was in the 80's today all the windows were open which of course, made viewing clearer and the chance to hang out the window to take photos. We had a full train and once we started out the conductor (cute young man by the name of Chase) came through our car calling "tickets, please".
We rode through some beautiful scenery and had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the train on the return.
We had a bicyclist ride parallel on the road along side of us. The narrator of the tour said he was Fred, the dentist, who road his bike this route every day, sometimes twice. At different crossing he would sit and wait for the train to come to the crossing and then he waved a friendly hello. We saw him on most of the route.
We road past old mines, miners cabins and some pretty spectacular modern day homes.
Did you know the difference between an Aspen Tree and a Birch? Aspen trees stand alone, whereas birch trees are in clusters. Didn't know that. And, that the Ponderosa Pine tree is the state tree. It has very long needles, whereas the Douglas fir tree has shorter needles. Just a little knowledge to store in my head for trivia conversations.
We arrived in Keystone and had a 15 minute break while they turned the engine around and added water to the steam engine. The train runs on recycled oil, which is a good thing.
We flipped our seat backs in the opposite direction and headed back to Hill City. It was lots of fun and something that you must do, at least once.
We had a late lunch at the Bumbin'Buffalo, then headed for home.
Jim and Liz invited us over for another fireside chat. I had made a buttermilk pie, thank you Lee Ann for the recipe. and garnished it with mandarin oranges. Yummy.
All in all it was a fun way to spend our anniversary.